- French Humanitarian International Solidarity Organizations (ISOs)
The landscape of non-governmental actors involved in the field of international solidarity is very diverse.
For France, these include: the French Red Cross, which is the national society in the international Red Cross movement (which also includes national societies from other countries, the ICRC, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), and many NGOs from civil society.
But what does this term “NGO” cover?
The term NGO is essentially a political concept. It was used first by the UN in 1946. Indeed, the UN Charter confers a consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations to NGOs concerned with matters within its jurisdiction (Article 71). Two to three thousand NGOs are accredited with the United Nations. This is an internal recognition regarding their expertise.
The Council of Europe has tried to define the concept of international NGOs. Convention 124 of the Council of Europe dated April 27th, 1986 (ratified by eight states: Austria, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, and Switzerland) covers private, non-profit organizations, justifying an “international interest” and exercising their activity in at least two Member States. Therefore, this definition distinguishes NGOs from commercial enterprises on the one hand and public and parastatal institutions on the other.
Conversely, transcribing the NGO concept into national law is quite rare. Disparities within the European Union in this area do not bode well for unifying rights (the non-profit nature, for example, is not universally accepted). In France, the NGO principle is not defined in law: there is no control or official “NGO” label.
The term NGO covers, in addition to international solidarity, very diverse areas of activity: human, cultural, and environmental rights. To single out humanitarian action and development, the terms “international solidarity association” (ISA) or “international solidarity organization” (ISO) are increasingly used. In France, what legal regime governs NGOs?
* Most humanitarian NGOs choose the legal form of an association declared under the 1901 law, whose framework offers the greatest flexibility.
Indeed, an association’s scope may be freely determined, with two restrictions: it must not undermine public order and sharing profits is prohibited between members. The association scheme is simply declarative. This means that filing a statement and the articles of association with the prefecture is sufficient to confer legal status. The statement must include the association’s name and scope, its headquarters, and the names, professions and addresses of its officers.
A Council of State decree may acknowledge an association’s “certified public interest.” The criteria for such certification have been determined by Council of State jurisprudence: notoriety, the scope corresponding to a major collective interest, as well as financial and size criteria. Certified public interest associations have legal capacity comparable to certified public interest foundations. They are subject to review by the Ministry of the Interior and in some cases financial jurisdictions (Court of Auditors (Cour des comptes)).
* An NGO may also take the legal form of a foundation, governed by Law No. 87-571 dated July 23rd, 1987.
Publication Date : February 2011